Sweets Hit the Streets:

Hershey’s New Dynamic Partnership with Uber


Elias Castaneda
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Manager, Walmart Finance, The Hershey Company

Business leaders are always searching for the “next big thing.” Whether it’s the newest technology coming out of Silicon Valley, the latest fashion fad, or superfood, a lot of resources are spent searching, analyzing and evaluating the impact new-to-the-world innovations will have on commerce. No matter what industry you’re in, chances are you’re searching for something new and better than your competition, and you better find that idea before anyone else.

If you asked me what I thought the “next big thing” is, I’d tell you that Uber is one of the selling channels of the futureI’m a finance manager at Hershey, so I don’t necessarily spend my entire work week looking for the “next big thing,” but sometimes it just smacks you in the face. The story of how Hershey began its Uber partnership in Mexico went like this...

I was relaxing with my friend one Friday night – he worked for Uber and I worked for Hershey in Mexico – and we were talking about the challenges of each of our respective industries. That’s when we discovered that there could be mutual benefit in linking our organizations. Hershey had name recognition in the Mexico market and Uber had a grassroots millennial following.

I was able to turn that small “lightning in a bottle” idea into a successful, award-winning strategic marketing plan that combined the powerful equity of Hershey’s portfolio with Uber’s millennial fan base.

When Uber decides to open a new market their first priority is creating name recognition and looking for wow activities to execute quickly. Although Uber had been in the Mexico market for two years, they were still interested in increasing brand recognition and awareness.

Hershey’s name and brands have been in the Mexico market for more than 30 years and have an established reputation with consumers. One of our goals was to stay relevant to the millennial consumer – something Uber does very well. So, after some thought, this partnership seemed like a winner plus it was novel to join a legacy industry with fast-paced technology world.

The idea: Have Uber sample Mother’s Day Hershey’s Kisses with their riders and give others the opportunity to send the product to loved ones through Uber for free.  

The goal of this project was not to pour money into the idea without knowing how consumers would react, but to simply pressure test it. I knew I needed some data to back up my gut feeling that this idea could work.

After discussions within Hershey, we decided to do a test and learn experiment. With less than $5,000 USD invested into the project, we went for it. We launched our pilot with Uber and it is safe to say we had no idea what we had just gotten ourselves into.

In a single day, 100,000 people ordered Hershey’s Mother’s Day Kisses, we surpassed all of our expectations!  

During that incredible day, I decided to send my finance team members out to meet Uber drivers on the street with product in an effort to meet the overwhelming demand.

Hershey and Uber were thrilled with the results. I was pushed to do more, and quickly. Eager to build on this success, we looked to replicate this partnership in cities across Mexico. We ran the promotion in Monterrey and Queretaro and three more cities. Uber’s structure is unique; each city is run by a different General Manager so we had to sell the partnership in city by city. I was proud that we grew the partnership because I continue to see Uber as the crossroads of digital and analog; it has the potential to become a new, global selling channel for Hershey. 

The next big opportunity to grow the partnership came during Valentine’s Day. We were able to combine the things Uber and Hershey do best into a Valentine's Day promotion and create the first self-paid marketing activity for Uber and Hershey.

In the end, the Hershey Mexico Uber Kisses core team had about two months to fully execute the Valentine's Day promotion, and the results were certainly something to celebrate:

  • Uber Kisses sold in eight hours the same amount as Walmart Mexico during the same time frame.
  • The promotion reached 20 million Twitter users in only eight hours – that's 40% of all Twitter users in Mexico.
  • #UberKisses became a top five trending topic in Mexico, and reached Twitter users across the world, with posts as far as Asia.
  • In total, there were 45 million mentions over five days.

My takeaways from this experience:

- Relentlessly pursue your “lightning in a bottle” idea. You never know when and where they’ll hit, but if you have a gut feeling and passion for pursuing it. Go for it!

- Take a test & learn approach to innovation. There is no need to go all in. Make a plan, invest a little and learn a lot.

- Walk before you run. Things won’t happen overnight so build on your success in a measured way.

- Always consider unexpected partnerships. Tech and consumer-packaged-goods seems like an unlikely pairing. Never say never.

Nothing in the business world stays the same. We all have to adapt, learn, and create in order to stay ahead of the curve and ahead of our competition. There are many ways to do that, but only some are successful. For Hershey and Uber, we’ve been able to form a great partnership in Mexico, but we aren’t stopping there. We will continue to push and explore the possibilities of new selling channels. Will you?